The second floor of the Shorebreak Hotel buzzed with excitement Tuesday morning as guests of the fourth "Surfboards on Parade" unveiling waited—with coffee and doughnuts in hand—to see what longtime shaper Al Merrick and Huntington Beach-born sports artist Dave Hobrecht cooked up for the ongoing exhibition. Perhaps the word had more widely spread about HB's parading one-of-a-kind surfboards, or maybe the Kelly Slater connection beckoned fans, but the event marked the biggest turnout yet in honor of 100 years of surfing at the HB Pier.
Dozens of community members and city representatives attended the big reveal, as did "Surfboards on Parade" artist John Van Hamersveld and surfing legends Rick "Rockin' Fig" Fignetti, Jericho Poppler, Dave Nuuhiwa, Bud Llamas, Danny Nichols, Rich Harbour, Bob "The Greek" Bolen, and Pete "PT" Townend—the dutiful host of the unveilings. Numerous other familiar faces graced the crowd, including local artist Sam Bernal, local photographer Michael Latham and Surf City Skateboards Founder Keith Shelley. Watching the community come together to support such a brilliant blend of art and surfing over the past couple of months has been truly inspiring and beautiful.
What's even more beautiful is the collaborative community movement's mission, which is to eradicate skin cancer. With Rotary Club of Huntington Beach spearheading the exhibition alongside Event Fusion, three groups will benefit from the October 5 surfboard auction, including Huntington Beach Art Center, International Surfing Museum and Hoag Family Cancer Institute.
Before inviting both artists to address the crowd on Tuesday, Townend lauded Merrick's Channel Islands Surfboards for the iconic surfing company it's become. "Channel Islands, probably unquestionably, is the number one surfboard brand in the world," said Townend. "You see all the best surfers out there on them."
Channel Islands Surfboards Marketing Team Manager Travis Lee spoke in place of Merrick, who is currently recovering from shoulder surgery, and Kelly, who is currently gunning for his 12th world title. The shortboard, which Merrick shaped for the legendary surfer and 11-time ASP World Surfing Champion about a year and a half ago, was plucked from Slater's quiver and put on parade—but not without Hobrecht's signature charcoal touch.
"Dave really thought outside the box," said Lee of the newest installment. He also touched upon the deeper connections both Merrick and Slater have with the series' mission. Merrick lost his granddaughter to cancer, and Slater lost his father to cancer. Said Lee, "This project holds a special place in both of their hearts."
Using a mixture of crushed charcoal and pastels, Hobrecht drew a beautiful action shot of Slater—clad in a U.S. Open of Surfing rash guard. The scene was then printed on canvas and affixed to the belly of the artfully framed board. During this process he just so happened to also cover up Slater's signature. The top of the board, however, remains untouched, preserving Slater's footprints. Bordering the board's authentic side are postcards honoring the event beneficiaries and work-in-progress shots of the project.
An accomplished artist and family man, Hobrecht said of Merrick's board, "What a canvas to paint on." Always pushing boundaries, he endured a few sleepless nights to finish his masterpiece, which will remain on display at the Shorebreak Hotel through August 17, when it will then join the other 26 surfboards on parade at the HB Art Center on August 30.
Lee says previous boards that have surfed with Slater and been donated to charity have raised upward of $50,000. Ladies and gentlemen, the bar has been set.
For a growing list of 100 years of surfing events, check out our handy guide.